The group’s teaching on salvation through faith in Christ was right on. When I made a personal commitment to faith in Christ, I found everything, and am so happy that He is in my life now. But that is where I believe the Christian influence of this group stopped. I then began to experience another of Lifton’s criteria for mind control:
Milieu (Environment) Control
Definition: Control over the members’ flow of information and social interaction. In many groups, there is a “no gossip” rule that keeps people from expressing their doubts or misgivings about what is going on. Members are taught to report those that break the rule, a practice that increases dependence on the leadership. They are sometimes told not to believe anything they see or hear reported by the media.
When I was a brand new Christian, Nancy would spend hours with me on the phone, teaching me the “right way to think”. After all, since the Assembly had led me to a personal faith in Christ, shouldn’t they be the ones to lead me into even deeper truths? When I said something that she agreed with, she would say, “Praise the Lord.”
When I said something that she didn’t agree with, she would say, “‘Hmmmnn, that’s interesting.” In this way, she was programming my mind to follow the Assembly teachings of George Geftakys and her brother, Mike Zach.
One of the first things taught in the meetings, which Nancy reinforced to me, was that the world is a very evil place. They quickly showed you how your family, your former church, and the way you used to live were not truly scriptural. They taught that most churches are ‘worldly’ and not preaching the truth.
Even the Bible preachers on a local Christian College radio station were either ‘worldly’ or teaching ‘watered-down Christianity’, in their view. I soon began thinking that the only people I could really trust to teach the truth to me were Nancy and the people from this group.
I found myself unable to talk with my parents and former friends anymore, because my belief system was changing into something quite different from theirs. I began telling my parents that they were going to a heathen church and that they weren’t really living for God.
I believe this first phase of what I experienced in the Assembly was the first step to mind control, called environmental control, where the group began cutting me off from my family, church, friends, other information and idea sources.
I remember asking Mike Zach once, “Now that I’m saved, what is next?” He told me, “This is only the beginning; the best is yet to come. There’s much more after this.” Now this may seem like a legitimate thing to say, unless you understand what the “much more after this” really is. That conversation was a foreshadowing that my life was about to be dramatically altered.